Thursday, October 20, 2016

Math Essentials for Every Primary Classroom

When I was in undergrad, I was soooo nervous about teaching math. My oh my, how that’s changed. I would teach primary math all day if I could now. I absolutely LOVE it. There are a handful of tools that I’ve found super helpful when teaching math, so today I thought I’d share with you a few of my favorite MATH ESSENTIALS!


#1 – Magnetic Base Ten Pieces from Learning Resources
Before I had these magnetic base ten pieces, I used to hot glue magnets to the back of my foam base ten blocks and it was a disaster. The day I got these it was like Christmas! I’ve used them a few different ways. One year, my calendar area was housed on a dry erase board, so I used these for counting the number of days in school during calendar time.
#2 – Number Line, Tens Frames, and Hundreds Chart Dry Erase Boards
I never knew I was missing out until I got these dry erase boards from Education by Oriental Trading. Each board is two-sided, and the part I love the most is the number line! I’ve tried to have my students draw their own number lines on blank dry erase boards and it's very difficult for them. They make them so tiny and then the fat dry erase markers make it hard to read. That's why these dry erase boards are the PERFECT size for my little learners. If you don’t want to splurge on the dry erase boards, you could always make your own math with tens frames and just slide them in sheet protectors to make them dry erase!

#3 – Math Apps from The Math Learning Center
This year my district adopted Bridges as our math curriculum, and I really love it. When I was at a PD over the summer, they shared with us all of the free apps they have. You all... OH MY WORD. They're amazing! I wish I would've known these existed even for the years when we weren't using Bridges! 
We practiced number combinations to 10 with the Number Rack app! We also earned stickers for hard work!
#4 Dice, Dice, and even more DICE!
I have to confess... I am dice obsessed! I feel like you can NEVER have too many dice! There are so many great ways to use them because they are the perfect tool for differentiation. Students can use the double dice and triple dice to roll and make numbers. One of my favorite games is Rock & Roll Place Value, where students roll two or three dice, make the largest number possible, and compare them. You find the free directions to the game here.
This is only one of my dice organizers... The obsession is real!
#5 Math Talk Sentence Starters
Obviously this is not a tangible manipulative or math tool; however, teaching your students to have productive conversations about math is essential! Our students can learn SO much from listening to and learning from their peers. During math number talks, when a student shares a strategy for solving a problem, I'll call on another student to repeat that strategy. Then they must ask the initial student who shared, "Is that how you solved it?" This practice helps remind students to listen and learn from how their classmates are solving problems. After modeling and practicing frequently during whole group, I pair up students to solve a few problems and teach each other how they solved the problems.
Click on the image above to grab a free copy!
If you haven't read the book Number Talks by Sherry Parrish, you must add it to your list. You will learn so much about different strategies students can use to solve math problems mentally and fluently. Here are some sentence starters I use in my classroom to help foster math conversations. You can get a copy for yourself by clicking the image.
Display this free poster to help your students talk about math!
While these are only some of my favorite math essentials, there are so many more amazing tools out there. Share YOUR must-have math tools in the comments below!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Lazy Teacher Lunches

You know those adorable lunches you see all over Pinterest with the salad in the mason jars... yeah, that's not me.
I'm sorry, but I just don't have the time for that. I can barely meal prep my own dinners, so planning ahead to take salad in a mason jar is just not in the cards for me. If it's ideal for you, then by all means, go for it! If you find yourself in the same boat as me though, keep reading...

A few weeks ago I stopped at the grocery store for a few things on my way home from school. And then, I saw IT.

This precious, tiny, ON SALE, little baby LUNCH CROCKPOT.

Originally $25. On sale for $7.50. WHAAAAAAAT!

So obviously I bought one and took a selfie with it. Because I'm known to take selfies with crockpots.
A few days ago... My face still looks like this when I talk about my Lunch Crock
Back in 2013 when I got a new crockpot :)
So what's so great about this little Lunch Crock? Well, when I get to school in the morning, I pop in some soup or leftovers from last night's dinner and turn it on. Then, when it's time for lunch, mine is already ready to go! No waiting in line for the microwave for me! I actually stocked up on soups at to grocery store and put them in my cabinet in my classroom. That way, if I don't have any dinner leftovers to bring, I already have some soups in my cabinet.

At the end of the day, I quickly clean it in my classroom sink, dry it, and leave it at school so it's ready for the next day! I don't even have to take it home! But if I wanted to, I could because it does have an adorable handle.

Am I being too dramatic if I call it life-changing? Whatever, it's life changing. Go grab yourself one. I found mine at Kroger, but you can also snag them on Amazon for $20.

Happy Eating!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Substitute Plans Without The Stress & Panic

Preparing for a sub is one of my least favorite things to do. I hate waking up at 2am, feeling sick, and thinking please don’t let me be sick. I can’t write sub plans right now.

Anybody else? It’s the WORST!
This year I decided to plan ahead, and I’ve had so many questions about it that I’m dedicating this post to sharing how I plan for a sub without losing my mind. I’m going to share with you the contents of my sub binder, as well as what I put in my sub tub. Plus, I’ll have a free download for you at the end of this post!

For my sub binder, I used a ½ inch sized binder to house all of my information. I organize it into 4 sections: About Our School, About Our Class, Lesson Plans, & Class Forms. My sub tub is a 20-quart Sterilite container ($6.99) from Target. For my copies, I used colored expandable file folders that you can find in the office supply section of most stores.
The "Lesson Plans" section is where I get the most questions. At my school, we don’t have to turn in our lesson plans (thank goodness), so simply leaving my plans for the sub is easier said than done. In my lesson plans section, I give a rundown/schedule for the day that is good for the ENTIRE year. I give all of the times that we do everything so routines stay the same. However, instead of detailing what to do for the reading lesson for the day, I let my sub choose a read aloud and corresponding activity from my sub tub that they are comfortable using.
No, it’s not fluff. My sub tub is full of engaging read alouds that I know my students will love, as well as activities that are standards based. I don’t want my sub introducing a new concept, so most of the activities are review. There are certain skills that my students can work on all year, so those are the types of activities I include. They are not all just worksheets. I include task cards, craftivities, and math games that are no-prep. I love adding some of my no-prep math games for addition and subtraction in my sub tub. This year, after I chose all of the activities I wanted to put in my sub tub, I saved it for my Thursday volunteer to copy for me… yeah, she pretty much organized everything I gave her and put it in my tub for me. Win-win-win!!!
At the end of my lesson plans, I write that if there is an assembly or special event for the day, someone from my grade level will let them know what time and where to be. I tell them that they may adjust the daily schedule and activities I have listed as they see fit. I also add daily reflection sheets for my sub so they can write a quick note to me about how the day went.

In the "About Our School" section, I give all of the basic information about my school: address, school start/end times, important phone extensions, and emergency procedures.

In the "About Our Class" section, I give details on routines, procedures, and expectations specific to my classroom. I explain specific details like the fact that my class has a line order, how many students can use the restroom at once, how students take care of sharpening pencils, etc. I also give a few details on important student information such as who has specific allergies or individualized behavior charts that they’ll need to use. 

I also explain my behavior management system. I use Class Dojo in my room, and when I’m out, I can’t exactly have my sub implement that. In its place, I leave index cards and small round stickers in my sub tub. I tell the sub to give each student an index card to put their name on and then they earn stickers in place of points. When I return, I give them points based off of how many stickers they earned. I also leave these "Substitute Reward Coupons" that are in the freebies section of Mrs. D’s Corner.

The last section of my binder is for "Class Forms." In this section, I leave a bunch of class lists for attendance and anything else a sub might want the class list for.

I hope you all found some helpful ideas and tips as you put together plans for your sub binder and sub tub! It really is SO worth your time! You can snag the signs for your sub tub for free by clicking the image below, and if you’re in need of a sub binder, here’s the LINK to mine!
Click picture to download this sign for free!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Strategies to Reduce Small Group Interruptions

Every year during back to school time I start to get a teensy bit nervous about all of the new little faces that will be coming and how all of their little personalities will play a part in our class family. And oh good gracious, I always stress about how in the world I'm going to make sure I've got my routines and procedures set. So today I thought I'd highlight a few routines and procedures that save my sanity. 
These are just a few of my favorite strategies so that I am not getting interrupted nearly as much during my small group time! Please remember that you need to explicitly teach, model, and practice all of these with consistency!

I teach my students that if you have a question about your activity, you must ask 3 friends working near you and/or the stations leader (aka the kid who always knows what they're supposed to be doing). Some people make cute name badges for those leaders... I haven't gotten around to that just yet, and I haven't needed to. I just write their names on the board or review who to ask for help before I send students off to stations. 95% of the time this fixes the problem. However, if I have a student that is clearly not listening to the instructions for the activity and is constantly up and asking others what he/she should be doing, then I'll have a private conversation with that student later and handle it individually.
During my first year of teaching our guidance counselor taught my kids the 4 Bs of when to get adult help - Barfing, Bleeding, Behaving Dangerously, or Bullying. I have constantly referred back to those 4 Bs for EVERYTHING. I should also mention the bleeding one must be blood dripping everywhere to interrupt. These 4 Bs also carry over quite well when it comes to tattling. If it's not one of the 4 Bs, I'm not going to hear it.
Every year I tape down an X on the floor off to one side of my small group table. Some teacher use this for students to stand on and wait to be addressed if they need something. Mine is only to be used for emergencies (the 4 Bs) OR if students need to use the restroom. If students need to use the restroom, they must stand on the X, hold up the silent restroom hand signal (index and middle finger crossed), and wait until I make eye contact with them. Once I acknowledge them with eye contact, a simple thumbs up/down tells them that they may/may not use the restroom.
We talk frequently about whether certain issues are kid-sized problems or whether an adult is truly needed in a situation. Sometimes there are extremely silly issues that, I'm sorry, but I'm just not going to interrupt small group time to fix. At the beginning of the year, even before I start meeting with small groups, I ask my students if it is a kid-sized problem. These kinds of things include: pencil broke, Johnny took my red crayon, Annie frowned at me, etc... Figure it out kids. Disclaimer: If Johnny is consistently a red crayon thief or Annie is consistently being mean to others, I deal with those, just not during small groups.
In addition to the X on the floor, I have a little push light and a LED light switch (both from Dollar Tree) that I turn on during small groups. When these are on, my students know that I am working with groups, and we are not to be interrupted. The visual on/off light really helps remind my kiddos.

Obviously these little tricks aren't going to completely prevent students from coming up to you during the middle of small groups, but I have found these procedures to help. As the year progresses, students need me less and less, and they end up leading and helping each other more and more.

Your kids can do it! Set high expectations, be consistent, and your students will meet them! Now go give your small groups the full 20 minutes they deserve!